Day 12 - 6th August 2001
LA City Tour

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Humphrey Bogart's stone
Today I woke up quite at about 6, as the two guys in one of the bunks next to me (I'd never seen them before) had got up already, and they were packing and having showers. The bunks creak quite a lot of noise when you move about on them so I couldn't really sleep, even with my earplugs in. I half-dozed for a while, and then got up and had breakfast. The party for the LA city tour assembled by the van, and by 9am we were all there, and the coach left the hostel. The guy showing us around was John, the same guy who took us to Disneyland yesterday. He seemed to have an encyclopedic knowledge of LA.

The first stop was the ubiquetos walk of fame. This is the area where there are stars' names on paving stones, which stretch for over a mile, along with the famous handprints in blocks of cement.
George Michael's toilet
We we given half an hour to look around, and take photos of each other there. It was quite tacky, and reminded me of various seaside towns around britain. I wouldn't have been at all surprised to see a shop selling sticks of rock with 'Hollywood' written down the middle.

After a stroll we all got back in the van, and drove around Hollwood whie our guide showed us where all the stars' houses were. It's amazing that everyone lived so close to each other. We saw plenty of large and extravagant houses. One had seventy bedrooms, and a 16 lane bowling alley and only three people were living there. Another had a canal running through it. Yet another had a swimming pool on the top floor and a glass floor so you could look up into the water from the floor below.

The next place we visited was Beverly Hills. This very upmarket part of town is guarded by hundreds of security personel, and several thousand security cameras. They have so much money there, that they paint the fire hydrants silver with actual real silver paint. The area is policed so well, that if you were to even lght a cigarette in the wront place, you would be stopped by police in under a minute! We were shown the toilet where George
Rodeo Drive
Michael was caught with a prostitute, and we all took pictures of it. After that we were dropped off on Rodeo Drive, a very exclusive row of shops, selling suits costing many thousands of dollars, and jewelry which had an insane amount of precous stones. All of us found the extravagence rather distasteful. If I had that amount of money, I certainly wouldn't want to live there. It has a certain coldness about it which is not at all inviting.

After this we went on to Venice beach for lunch. This is a massive, sandy beach, and is the site where Baywatch is filmed. We walked along the beach for a while and got a sandwich from one of the kiosks on the beach front. The beach was very idyllic, plenty of sand and clear blue ocean. We spent a while looking around the beach and the shops along the front. I bought a towel, as I forgot to bring a bath towel with me from home.

Venice Beach - do you get the urge to run in slow motion?
After our time was up, we all met back at the bus. The next trip we made was to the slightly more downmarket area of town, South central. This area has over 400 street gangs, and the police have pretty much given up trying to keep law and order since the gangs have such a huge amount of firepower. At one well-known crossing, over 150 people are killed in drive-by shootings every single year! We were told that the only reason could tour this area is that one of the leaders of the gang which rules the part of town we were in (the 18th Street Gang), used to work for Banana Bungalow, and that our van would be recognised as friendly by them. We were taken down a small alley, where we could see graffitti which contained a prominent number of 18s, the symbol of the gang.
Whoa! Am I really strong or what?

On a few occations we saw tennis shoes hanging from the power lines. It was explained to us that this was a form of initiation ceremony. Kids who were initiated into the gang would prove themselves by beating up another kid the same age in a rival gang. They would them steal their shoes, which would be hung up in a public place to humiliate the other kid. This is just a precurser to the violence that has made keeping law and order in some areas an impossibility. However, some would say one of the reasons that this started was the racist tendancies of the police themselves.

After this, we were taken to see the most famous sight in Hollywood, the Hollywood sign. This sign originally read 'Hollywoodland', and was erected as an advert for the Hollywoodland real estate company to encourage people to move up to the hills. Later on, the last four letters were dropped to form the current sign, known all over the world. In the 70s, the original wooden sign was taken down, and replaced with an identical-looking metal one. This was paid for by the save the sign campaign, a charity formed exclusively to maintain this historic landmark. We all took cheesy pictures of each other standing in front of the sign.

After that, we went back to the hostel. Later on, I went to see what the hostel's dinner was tonight, and I saw Carla, Allison and Carilyn eating there. The choice was tuna salad or tuna salad. I chose tuna salad and ate it with them, after which we got into a conversation with the chef and one of the recetionists, along the lines of how blinkered Americans were to other countries. Then we played a few card games, and then went to bed.

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